The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has stated that it has run out of time to push through legislation which would have seen a massive increase in probate fees introduced in May.
Fees had been due to increase, significantly in many cases, with a fixed fee of £155 (for those applying through a solicitor) being replaced by a sliding scale. This would have meant estates worth more than £2million would have been hit with a 9,000 per cent increase and would have attracted a fee of £20,000.
However, the controversial fee increase, which had been dubbed a ‘tax on death’ and which attracted opposition from solicitors, charities, a parliamentary committee and even Conservative MPs, has now been placed on hold, with the official explanation being that this is due to the snap General Election announcement which has halted parliamentary business.
There is no confirmation from the MoJ whether this is a temporary delay or will lead to a complete scrapping of the probate fee increase and a senior Conservative declined to say if the scheme would be brought back if the Prime Minister is re-elected.
Lee McClellan, a Partner with Palmers, who specialises in Wills, Probate and Older Client Services, said: “Shortly before the increase was due to be implemented, this hugely unpopular increase in probate fees, which many viewed as a stealth tax, appears to have fallen at the final hurdle.
“Whilst this is to be welcomed, the true reasons for the postponement are open to question and whether the fee increase will be resurrected in the next Parliament or will be permanently be kicked into the long grass is at present far from clear.
“Regardless of what happens in the future, careful estate planning remains important in ensuring that your estate passes to your chosen beneficiaries in the most appropriate and cost/tax effective way possible, so you should consider your options carefully and always seek expert legal advice before taking any action you may later regret.”
For further information about our wills and probate service, please contact us.